Neil Armstrong - like Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins - was born in 1930, during the Great Depression. In contrast to his companions in the moon landing, he did not come from a military family; his father was an auditor for the state of Ohio. Because of his father’s job, his family moved 16 times during Armstrong’s childhood before finally settling in Wapakoneta, Ohio. Even though Armstrong was shy and reserved, and remained so throughout his life, he had a talent for quickly making close friends wherever he went. At five, he boarded an airplane for the first time for an unforgettable flight with his father over the city where they were living. While Armstrong’s father was afraid of crashing, the young boy placidly contemplated the world from above.
From that moment on, airplanes fired the inquisitive boy’s imagination. Soon countless paper models dangled from his bedroom ceiling, and he even built a wind tunnel to find out which shape was most aerodynamic. He demonstrated his intelligence in other ways as well: He skipped the third grade, and he became Eagle Scout, the Boy Scouts’ highest rank.
Armstrong started flying lessons at age 15, paying for them with money he earned at an after-school job. He received his pilot’s license on his 16th birthday, and he was flying planes before he got his driver’s license! When recounting his experiences in the air to his mother, he always came across as astoundingly matter-of-fact or even emotionless - never showing enthusiasm or excitement. And much later, as a fighter pilot in Korea, he stayed calm and kept his cool even during the most precarious maneuvers.